Match-making on Mana Island
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
on Mana Island
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A blind date with one of six eligible bachelors awaits a young female takahe when she is released onto Mana Island today. The seven-month-old bird, named Moa, will be paired with a single male on the island in the hope that they’ll eventually breed.
Moa became sick early last week and was airlifted from her home at the Burwood takahe recovery unit near Te Anau to Massey’s wildlife ward. Lecturer in avian and wildlife health Kerri Morgan says she was near death’s door.
“She arrived exhibiting severe neurological symptoms and was very underweight. Tests showed a high level of the parasite coccidia in her system. We treated her for that and she’s recovered quickly.”
Ms Morgan says takahe don’t usually respond well to hospital treatment.
“They lose weight because they get stressed easily, but we gave Moa the penthouse suite in the ward and brought in native grasses for her to feed on, which she obviously appreciated.”
Department of Conservation staff will take Moa to Mana Island this morning, where she’ll be kept in isolation with her new mate.
The Department’s ranger on the island Sue Caldwell says the scientific reserve, off the coast of Porirua, is short of female takahe.
“It makes sense to bring her here. We’ll try and pair her with one of the six single males on the island. Males who aren’t paired cause trouble in the pre-breeding season that begins in late August, so hopefully we can get a fairytale ending here.”
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Ms Caldwell says Moa will also introduce fresh genetics into the 35-strong takahe population on Mana Island.
“Because she’s from the Fiordland area, Moa comes from completely different genetic stock, so if she breeds on the island she’ll diversify the gene-pool there.”
Kerri Morgan says tests showed other birds in Moa’s group at Burwood also showed high levels of the parasite, and Massey is sending down a resident veterinarian to treat them. “There will also be some changes made to the birds’ management plan to help reduce the parasite levels in the takahe there,” she says.